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Opinion

November 6, 2013

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TTP camps

If the United States was interested in punishing the TTP terror group after the murder of seven CIA agents in Khost in 2009, all that the US army and the CIA had to do was pull a few strings within the Afghan spy service, the NDS, and flush out TTP terrorists from the many camps that thrive on the Afghan soil and are used to plan and execute terror attacks inside Pakistan.
Even now one of those camps hosts Mullah Fazlullah, the terrorist who ordered the attack on Malala Yousafzai. Fazlullah and his gang were successfully flushed out by the Pakistani military from Swat but he ironically found a place to hide in American-controlled Afghanistan.
If the CIA really wanted to do us a favour, it could start with the TTP terror camps in Afghanistan. But it didn’t. Instead, when the TTP showed willingness to talk about ending terrorism, the CIA intervened and hit the group citing a list of justifications.
The agency is trying hard to underplay the timing but there is no way to walk around the fact that the TTP chief was taken out precisely because the terror group showed willingness to take the first step toward possible peace in Pakistan. Even Hamid Karzai has said as much.
Washington realises this fact, which is why the official media spinners in DC have gone on the defensive, launching a campaign to justify the Hakeemullah assassination. American officials have even cited the attempted amateur car bombing in New York City in 2010 as a reason for the assassination, even though the evidence in that case is tenuous at best.
This is not about defending the TTP or its terrorist chief Hakeemullah. This is about Pakistan’s right to extricate itself from the US’ messy and failed war in Afghanistan. The US needs to reign in the CIA and coordinate actions with Pakistan. American policy in Afghanistan cannot succeed without taking Pakistani concerns and interests along.
Talking to the disparate and odd groups that we collectively call the TTP is an

integral part of the process to stabilise our western border. To end the TTP, we need to engage with those misguided Pakistanis who joined the group in the belief that killing Pakistanis would somehow help end the foreign occupation of Afghanistan.
If the engagement is successful, it would help isolate the core group of terrorists within TTP who receive weapons and funding from actors in Afghanistan as part of a regional proxy war. The TTP militants are no angels, but it is important to neutralise misguided Pakistanis before taking on the core group that wants to go down fighting.
This is why engaging willing groups within the TTP in peace talks is a good option. Why is the CIA trying to disturb this option and dictate policy?
Pakistan should put on the table a credible threat of blocking Nato transit routes and action against CIA drones if Washington tries to obstruct our efforts to end the civil war on our western border.
It is unfortunate that an influential group of commentators is out to confuse the Pakistani public opinion on talks with the TTP. This group is unconditionally defending American policy.
Another thing we need to point out to US officials is the danger of allowing the CIA to once again lead the American policy on Pakistan. The assassination of the TTP chief when he was about to engage in dialogue with the Pakistani government amounts to an attempt by the CIA to hijack our internal policy options and force the US government to take a stand on an internal Pakistani matter.
The CIA bears substantial responsibility for America’s military defeat in Afghanistan and for worsening Pakistan-US ties. CIA’s present and former officials love to shift the blame on to Pakistan for the Afghan defeat and portray Islamabad as the architect of that defeat. President Obama should make it clear to the CIA that it cannot dictate policy options to Pakistan or act on matters that concern us without our consent.
One of the best things Pakistan can do to neutralise willing groups within the TTP and isolate the hardcore elements is to declare neutrality in Afghanistan and announce that it won’t take part in military operations to fight against Afghan groups, including the Afghan Taliban. We can declare neutrality while still supporting the peace process in Afghanistan. This will destroy one of the main excuses the TTP uses to recruit gullible Pakistanis.
Email: [email protected]

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